Controlling Safety Hazards

Controlling Safety Hazards

Identifying hazards either related to the job task or to a worksite is only half the battle. After the hazards are identified, the next step is to determine how you are going to keep those hazards from becoming an incident. Controlling safety hazards involves examining the most practicable solution to the particular hazard based on the hierarchy of controls.  From eliminating the hazard altogether to requiring protective equipment to work around the hazard, the hierarchy of controls is an important tool for safety professionals and supervisors to work with.

Hierarchy of Controls

Hierarchy of Controls
Controlling Safety Hazards
  1. Elimination – The most effective way to control a hazard is to eliminate altogether. For example you can de-energize equipment before work on it. Another example would be to have crane or conveyor systems to move material in a space.
  2. Substitution– Substitution is switching a product or process with a safer one. Changing a tool with a safer tool would be one example. I read an article where a company had employees that liked using straight razors to open boxes, but that was causing a lot of hand injuries. So the company switched to safety knives. If you have a chemical that is flammable, you can switch to a non-flammable equivalent. You can also change to a non-poisonous
  3. Engineering Control– These controls are modifications to equipment or plants to improve their safety. There are three basic types of engineering controls: process control (changing the way a process is done), enclosure/isolation of emission source, and ventilation. Safety guards on saws and other tools are examples of engineering controls. If you are using power tools in a wet environment, a ground fault circuit interrupter would be used. Engineering controls in a plant would include a ventilation system to remove fumes from welding or painting operations.
  4. Administrative Controls– Administrative controls involve the design of a process or procedure that can help reduce the hazard. Housekeeping rules would be an example of an administrative control. While the previous hazard controls place the control at the source or along the path of the hazard, administrative controls are placed at the worker.
  5. Personal Protective Equipment– The last control that should be relied on his PPE. Basically, if you can’t do diminish the hazard any other way listed, you have to wear appropriate equipment to prevent injury from the hazard.

Hazard Control Program

A previous blog post has already discussed the difference between a hazard and risk assessment. When hazards have been identified and ranked, the higher hazard tasks must have controls assigned to them. While site specific hazards will vary from site to site, the basic jobs and tasks will have the same hazards, just the risk may be different if you calculate risk. It is therefore important that you review the jobs/tasks periodically to ensure there have been no changes to the level of risk. The Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety recommends asking the following questions:

  • Have the controls solved the problem?
  • Is the risk posed by the original hazard contained?
  • Have any new hazards been created?
  • Are new hazards appropriately controlled?
  • Are monitoring processes adequate?
  • Have workers be adequately informed about the situation?
  • Have orientation and training programs been modified to deal with the new situation?
  • Are any other measures required?
  • Has the effectiveness of hazard controls been conducted in your committee minutes?
  • What else can be done?


Controlling safety hazards is the job of everyone on a worksite. The appropriate control for the situation must be determined before work starts. Orientation of new workers to the hazards and what controls are in place must also take place. Whatever control you use, make sure there is tampering with it, i.e. removing the guard on a saw. Discipline, especially in the use of administrative controls and PPE must be maintained for them to be effective. Remember, plan to stay safe, control the hazards.

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